Newcastle head to the Molineux Stadium on Monday for their clash with Wolves and will be hoping for a repeat of their battling performance against Spurs last week, albeit with a better end result.
Wolves have been brilliant since coming up from the Championship and currently sit seventh. Two keys to that success are Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, who control the tempo of the game and are crucial at both ends of the pitch.
The obvious approach if you’re Rafa Benitez is to shut the duo down but that is easier said than done. Failing that, the Spaniard can turn his attention to nullifying a different, influential pair.
The Midlands outfit are enjoying success with a 3-5-2 approach this season, of which Nuno’s midfield generals are the beating heart. Additionally, Raul Jimenez has impressed on loan from Benfica and Diogo Jota has hit a fine patch of form in recent weeks, while Connor Coady’s performance at the back have led to some calling for his inclusion in the England setup.
Newcastle, meanwhile, have seemingly also found a winning formula in their 5-4-1, which offers ample defensive security as well as counter-attacking potential. Both aspects were key to the Magpies’ shock victory over champions Manchester City last month and they were unlucky not to get a point from their clash with Spurs last time out.
Benitez got what he wanted in January with the additions of Antonio Barreca and Miguel Almiron, who will both offer important depth and quality to the St James’ Park outfit. While all the focus is on the latter, a record buy from Atlanta, the former will be crucial on Monday if Newcastle are to win at Wolves.
Nuno’s 3-5-2 offers width through wing-backs Jonny and Matt Doherty, both of whom were vital in the win over Everton last week. Switching the play from flank to flank, the duo stretched the Toffees defence, thus opening up space for the strikers to get in behind.
Benitez’s defensive setup, which also utilises wing-backs, will allow the Tyneside outfit to shut down Doherty and Jonny far easier than Everton did, while also keeping the core of defence compact.
Barreca will likely step in at left-wing-back, while DeAndre Yedlin continues on the right. Both are blessed with bags of pace and should get right on their Wolves counterparts’ toes. You can either stop Neves and Moutinho by getting tight to them – Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff are capable of doing so – or you can restrict their options to play out wide.
Either is effective but the latter may be more achievable for Benitez and his men.
Does Newcastle’s infamous title collapse of 1996 mirror what is happening at Liverpool right now? The Magpie Channel discuss in the video below…